Tesla Model Y efficiency exceeds early-production Model 3, data shows

(Credit: Evan Jarecki/Instagram)

Doubts may still linger about the potential of battery electric vehicles for mainstream transportation, but EVs are getting progressively better. And if the data from the Tesla Model 3 and Model Y fleet is any indication, it appears that these improvements could result, at least to some degree, in an all-electric crossover being more efficient than the early production versions of an all-electric sedan.

In a recent conversation with Teslarati, David Hodge, the founder and CEO of Embark — a transportation app company that was sold to Apple in 2013 — explained that his work on a little passion project has shown something incredibly interesting about the Model 3 and Model Y’s efficiency. Hodge is currently working on the Nikola app, a service that he hopes will eventually grow to be the CarFax for EVs. So far, users of the app have driven about 7,000,000 miles, and over 2,000 Model 3s are registered in the fleet. 

These Model 3s are comprised of vehicles that were produced from the beginning of Elon Musk’s first “alien dreadnought” attempt to cars that rolled off the line this quarter. Based on data that the Nikola app proprietor shared, it is evident that the Model 3 has gotten significantly more efficient over the years. Users of the app with vehicles produced in 2018, for example, showed a real-world average MPGe of 90.3, while cars that were produced in 2019 had a real-world average of 100.4. 

The Tesla Model 3’s real-world efficiency over time, as reflected by users of the Nikola app. (Credit: David Hodge)

These efficiency improvements continued in the first half of 2020, when Nikola app users who owned Model 3s showed a real-world average MPGe of 105.2. Interestingly enough, Tesla appears to have rolled out a major improvement to the Model 3’s efficiency in the second half of the year, as vehicles produced after June 2020 have shown a real-world average MPGe of 125.7. That’s the biggest improvement in the Model 3’s efficiency yet, at least as reflected in data from the Nikola app’s users. 

Inasmuch as the improvements in the Model 3’s MPGe are notable, the efficiency of the Model Y appears to be even more noteworthy. The Model Y is the newest vehicle in Tesla’s lineup today, having started deliveries earlier this year. But even with its early ramp, it is becoming quite evident that Tesla did something special with the all-electric crossover. 

Nikola app users who owned Model Ys that were produced in the first half of 2020 showed a real-world average MPGe of 103.2, which was very close to the MPGe of Model 3s that were manufactured in the same period. And just like the Model 3s, Model Ys that were produced after June 2020 exhibited a significant improvement in efficiency, with the vehicles having a real-world average MPGe of 118.7. That’s higher than the MPGe of Model 3s that were produced just last year

The real-world MPGe of the Tesla Model 3 as compared to the Tesla Model Y, per data from users of the Nikola app. (Credit: David Hodge)

As noted by Hodge, such efficiency figures from the Model Y are extremely impressive, especially considering that it is larger and significantly heftier than the Model 3. This is also a pretty unique situation considering that the company’s flagship sedan, the Model S, has always been significantly more efficient than its SUV counterpart, the Model X.

“This is pretty impressive considering the obvious aerodynamic differences in the Y and the fact that the S has always outperformed the X by about 15. If you just look at cars made since June, the Model Y MPGe climbed to 119 on average, but it looks like some of the tech improvements made it over to the 3, which is seeing 125.6 MPGe average in that period,” Hodge noted. 

Tesla has a habit of rolling out improvements to its vehicles as soon as they are available. The latest Teslas are therefore expected to have the best tech that the company has to offer at the time of their production. With this in mind, and as per the findings of auto teardown expert Sandy Munro, the Model Y is indeed equipped with Tesla’s best, both in tech and in design. And considering that the all-electric crossover is expected to share components with its sedan sibling, it is not very surprising to see the Model 3 experience efficiency gains as soon as the Model Y started ramping up. Such is simply the nature of Tesla. 

Simon Alvarez: Simon is a reporter with a passion for electric cars and clean energy. Fascinated by the world envisioned by Elon Musk, he hopes to make it to Mars (at least as a tourist) someday.
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